When a disaster strikes, family disaster preparedness is the
foundation for a strong community. Prepared citizens and community
leaders help reduce loss and suffering. This is especially true when
normal services are lost for an extended period of time. In the last
few years, we have seen our vulnerability to flooding, windstorms,
snow storms and other natural occurrences. There is also a very real
threat of an earth quake.
When disruptions of this scale occur, our emergency response
agencies are working at full capacity. In this environment,
neighbors helping neighbors is the single most important asset we
have. A concerned and caring neighbor prevents small problems from
developing into a life-threatening situation.
What can you do? You can help those who are less prepared to meet
basic, life-sustaining needs with:
• Heat and light
• Hygiene and waste disposal
The guidelines that follow provide information that will help you
and your neighbors safely meet these basic needs, using materials
that are likely to be on hand.
Thank you for your efforts to enhance the safety and welfare of our
This manual provides tools to help neighbors help each other meet
basic life-sustaining needs. It is a guide only, and does not
substitute for common sense. Your response to a disaster, and the
use of this guide, is founded on these principles:
• The strength of a community is prepared individuals.
• Each family’s situation and resources are unique.
• Each family’s privacy and dignity are respected.
These principles are vital, because disasters are also a
psychological shock. In general, most people bond together as a
community to help each other get through a crisis. Over time,
however, you may see (and experience yourself), a wide range of
emotional responses, including:
• loss of appetite
• sleep disturbances
• family problems
These are real, expected, and usually temporary responses. Talking
about shared experiences and feelings is a natural way to work
through these stages. The important thing is to remain
non-judgmental and leave any counseling to trained professionals.
For emergency only….911
Local disaster information or requests for emergency disaster
assistance…365-4561. If you have an emergency, and can not get
through to 911, use this number.
(during a disaster you may not be able to get through to Sheriffs’
I. Keeping Warm
_____ 1. Insulate one room in the house for a “shelter within the
- pitch a tent in this room
- tent alternative: Use your dining room table (extra leaves in).
Place a mattress underneath it, and drape blankets, rugs, ets., down
the sides. Leave a gap near the bottom for fresh air.
- Extra blankets, rugs, curtains, mattresses, clothes or newspapers
for insulation (doorways, floors, walls, windows).
- Sleeping bags for sleeping.
_____ 2. Safety precautions: Bring the following to this room:
- Battery-operated smoke alarm (if available).
- Any fire extinguishers
- A disaster supply kit (72-hour kit) in case of evacuation.
- Battery-operated radio to tune in on emergency broadcasts.
_____ 3. Insulate your body
- Wear loose clothes, in layers
- Keep clothes clean & dry
- Wear a hat/cap indoors & outdoors
_____ 4. Other heat sources
WARNING: DO NOT use Coleman fuel stoves or
Charcoal briquettes indoors!
WARNING: Place all open flame emergency heaters in
front of a window or door opened at least
one inch for ventilation.
WARNING: Place all open flame emergency heaters on a
• The following must be attended to at all times, and
TURNED OFF before sleeping.
- Propane camp stoves
- Canned heat (sterno, etc)
- “buddy burners” – wax-filled cardboard in a can
- burners on a gas stove
• The following may be left on while sleeping if properly
- Kerosene heaters
- Wood stove
_____ 1. Use candles, flashlights and lanterns
_____ 2. Put the light source in front of a mirror to increase
III. Minimizing Frozen Plumbing
_____ 1. Turn on faucets and collect any water, open cupboard
_____ 2. Open any other drain valves and collect water.
_____ 3. Turn off and drain the hot water tank through the drain
the bottom of the tank. (It has a connection for a hose, and this
water should be saved). Turn off the water heater when you are
going to drain it. If left on and empty, it will burn up the
heating system in the tank.
_____ 5. Pour car windshield washer anti-freeze in the sinks and
protect the gooseneck traps and prevent odor from entering the
_____ 6 Washing machine: Pour a quart of car windshield washer anti-
freeze in washing machine and set the button to pump it out just
a second. This gets it through the tubes and pump underneath.
_____ 7. Move stored water to the warmest room as possible. If not
practical, make sure containers have enough room for
expansion if the water freezes.
If electric or gas utilities fail, don’t try to heat the entire
house. It is easier to heat one room, and it is easier to heat a
room if you are bundled up warmly. A winter emergency is not a time
to expect that you can walk around the house barefoot and in shorts.
Wear loose layers of clothes. Keep dry. Wet clothing loses its
ability to insulate, and can suck heat right out of you (wool is an
exception). Stay out of the wind as much as possible. Clean clothes
keep you warm better than dirty clothes. Make sure your head, hands,
and feet are protected. Wear a warm cap inside & outside the house.
Newspapers can be emergency insulation. Wrap them around legs, arms,
torso, tape over windows/ceilings, on the floor. Blankets, cloth,
curtains, plastic, newspapers, and mattresses can be used to
insulate windows, doors, walls, and floors. DO NOT seal the room so
that no fresh air can get in. You must have ventilation.
Emergency heaters include propane, kerosene, candles, wood, “canned
heat”, buddy burners, and the burners of your gas stove (if the gas
is on but the electricity is off). Place all open-flame heaters in
front of a ventilation opening (this keeps exhaust fumes from
spreading through the room). A window or door MUST be open at least
1” to provide sufficient fresh air. Position the heater so that it
won’t be knocked over.
Propane camp stoves may be used indoors, but DO NOT use liquid
Coleman fuel stoves inside the house. DO NOT leave a propane camp
stove, or the burners on a natural gas stove, burning while you
sleep. Kerosene used according to the manufacturer’s directions, can
be safely used while sleeping. DO NOT leave candles burning while
you are asleep. They may get knocked over in the night and cause a
fire. DO NOT use charcoal briquettes inside for cooking or keeping
warm—doing this has killed people. DO NOT use wood unless you have a
fireplace or properly installed wood stove. If you need a campfire,
build it in a safe place outside. The flame of 1 candle can keep you
from freezing to death.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by the improper use of
open flame heating include headache, lethargy, blurry vision, room
feels “stuffy”. If symptoms occur, get fresh air into the room
immediately or move everybody out fast. Pregnant women and unborn
babies are particularly at risk. These symptoms are cumulative and
returning to a carbon monoxide environment could cause the symptoms
to come on much quicker and more severe. If you think you have
carbon monoxide poisoning contact Emergency Services or get to the
At night, use extra sleeping insulation such as blankets,
newspapers, sleeping bags, rugs, curtains, layered clothing, and
have everyone sleep together. Wear a cap to bed. If you have no
heat, pitch a tent in the middle of a room, and gather the family
inside. If you don’t have a tent, improvise one from sheets,
blankets, newspapers and furniture. DO NOT use open flame heating
inside a tent. The best place for babies is their mother’s bodies,
either in the arms or using one of the many ways of carrying a baby
and still having your hands free. Drink a lot of water, and eat
frequent meals with lots of
carbohydrates. If you have heat, and your neighbor doesn’t, invite
them to shelter with you. Work with your community to ensure that
nobody is left out in the cold.
MAKE A BUDDY BURNER
Materials needed: Plain corrugated cardboard (no bright in
printing, no wax or plastic coating), flat tuna/pet food cans, or
flat pineapple cans and lids, #10 can (the large institutional
size), candle wax or paraffin. Tools: punch-type can opener, tin
1. Cut the cardboard in strips whose width is the height of the
can—across the corrugations, so the holes show. Roll the strips
until the cardboard roll fits snugly into the can.
2. Melt the wax. Use a double boiler, because if the wax gets too
hot, it can burst into flame. You can improve a double boiler by
putting water in a large pan, and then setting a smaller pan into
the water. Each tuna can will take about 4 ounces of wax.
3. When the wax is melted, slowly pour it into the buddy burner so
that it runs down into the holes and saturates the corrugated
cardboard and fills the can to the rim. You can put a small piece of
cardboard sticking up or a candle wick in the middle to help start
it, but this isn’t required. Let it cool and harden. To light it,
set it on a brick or concrete block. Put a lighted match in the
middle of the can or light the wick. The flame will spread across
the top of the can.
If using indoors, place in front of a door or window open at least 1
inch. Set the burner on a brick or concrete block. It produces a lot
of heat and the flame can be 6 to 8 inches high. This doesn’t mean
it is unsafe, it does mean you can’t play around with it or treat it
casually or without thinking about what you are doing. BE CAREFUL.
Pay attention to details and use common sense whenever handling open
flame. DON’T set it on the floor, as someone may kick it over. DON’T
let the kids play with it (toasting marshmallows is OK).
To use for cooking: Cut out the end of the #10 can. Use the tin
snips to cut a 3” high and 4” wide “door” on one side of the can at
the open end. Leave the top of the door uncut. Bend this flap of
metal up so the door is “open”. Take the punch-type can opener, and
make 3 or 4 holes on the other side of the can at the top (this is
your chimney). Light the tuna can, place the #10 can over the Buddy
Burner, and cook on top of the can. This “can stove” can be adapted
to fuels like twigs, charcoal or charcoal briquettes, but these
SHOULD NOT be used indoors. Charcoal briquettes should never be used
indoors under any circumstances. The fumes can kill you.
To regulate the flame, use the can lid as a damper. Place it over
all of the flame to extinguish the fire, or cover it partially to
regulate the amount of flame. You can also use a piece of aluminum
foil (several thicknesses folded), that is larger than the tuna can.
Handle the damper with a pot holder, or a pair of pliers, or punch a
couple of holes in the edges of the lid and use some wire to make a
handle. To refill the buddy burner, place
small amounts of wax on the cardboard while the burner is operating.
As long as it has wax, it will burn.
Baking: Using tuna cans as little pans, anything you would bake in a
regular oven can be baked on top of the #10 can stove. Simply place
another #10 can over your baking pan and its an oven!
Emergency heat: Don’t put the #10 can over the buddy burner, as it
makes more smoke with the #10 can than without. Light the buddy
burner, let it warm up a room. As soon as the room is warm,
extinguish the buddy burner.
Emergency lighting can be candles, flashlights, and lanterns.
Putting a light in front of a mirror increases the illumination. If
using candles, kerosene, or propane lanterns, take appropriate fire
safety precautions. DO NOT go to sleep with an open flame light
burning. Store fuels like propane and kerosene safely outside of the
house or apartment.
You can get power for lights and radios from a car battery. People
familiar with electricity can rig emergency lights from car
batteries, brake lights, wire and fuse boxes from cars or junkyards.
It is also possible to build an improvised generator using an
automobile alternator and a lawnmower engine. If these activities
are organized as a community, people with skills will be able to
help others learn how to do these things. This kind of utilization
will cause a car battery to deteriorate faster, but in an emergency,
sometimes such trade-offs have to be made.
_____ 1. Keeping eating utensils and work surfaces clean
WARNING: DO NOT add any product with ammonia to a bleach solution.
- If water is scarce, scrub dishes with brushes, or clean sand or
newspaper to remove food particles & grease, and then wash in hot
- Use unscented household bleach for disinfecting solutions.
• For dishes and hard, non-porous surfaces, use 1 tablespoon
liquid bleach in 1 gallon of water. Soak small items for 5
minutes. Surfaces such as floors or counters should be wet
liberally and kept wet for 2 minutes.
• For general disinfecting (floors, counters, etc.), use ¾ cup
liquid bleach in 1 gallon of water. Soak small items for 5
minutes. Surfaces such as floors or counters should be wet
liberally and kept wet for 2 minutes.
_____ 2. Personal hygiene
• Wash hands regularly, especially after using the toilet. The
Disinfecting bleach solution is a good hand rinse.
• Bathing: Using a bucket or tote instead of the tub. For warm
Water, put the water in a black plastic bucket or black-painted pop
Bottles. Set these in the sun for two hours. When you’re done
bathing, save any dirty or soapy water to pour in the toilet for
• Cornmeal or cornstarch can be used as dry shampoos. Sprinkle
liberally in the hair, and then brush vigorously.
• Use only boiled or purified water for brushing your teeth or
Cleaning contact lenses.
• Use rubber or plastic tubs or buckets and a household plunger
To wash clothes without electricity. Put water, detergent, and
Clothes in the buckets. Cut a hole in the lid for the plunger handle
(the agitator). Soak the clothes. Insert the plunger handle through
the lid, put the lid on the bucket and agitate.
• Use a tub of clear water to rinse the clothes. Some clothes may
Require hand scrubbing.
• Use the wringer of a mop bucket to remove water. If you don’t
Have a mop bucket, wring clothes by hand.
• Air dry by hanging on clothes lines or hangers. In winter, you can
Air dry outside, but you may have to crack ice to remove it from the
clothes. (wear gloves when hanging clothes in winter).
_____ 1. Separate trash and throw less stuff away.
• Keep disposable diapers in a separate bag.
• Keep toxic materials such as spray cans separate
_____ 2. Reuse bottles and cans.
_____ 3. Compost wet trash EXCEPT meats and fats. Put shredded
paper materials over wet trash and add dirt on top of the
_____ 4. DO NOT burn trash unless approved by local officials.
_____ 1. If the sewer works but there is no water, use water that
been used for washing to flush toilets.
_____ 2. Chemical toilets (porta-potties, RV toilets) may provide a
a temporary solution. Emptying is uncertain, depending on
_____ 3. Emergency indoor toilet.
- Put a toilet seat on a rigid plastic bucket
- Put sawdust, dry leaves and dirt in the bottom of bucket
- After each use, add more of this material so waste is covered
- If toilet paper is not available, use newspaper or phone book
- When full, dispose of waste in one of two ways:
1) Dig a hoe in the ground about six feet deep and 2 or 3 feet
across. Empty into the hole, and cover completely with dirt. Cover
the hole with a board weighted down with bricks or rocks. When this
has been filled to within 2 feet of the surface, fill it the rest of
the way with dirt. Disposal holes must be a least 8 yards away from
a source of water such as a well, pond, or stream.
2) Empty into a compost heap, and cover completely with natural
materials. (This compost should be aged for at least one year before
using, and it must be monitored to ensure that it heats up properly
so the disease pathogens are killed).
• After emptying bucket, rinse with the bleach disinfecting
The primary problem with an outdoor pit latrines are
flies/mosquitoes, odors, and the spread of disease, none of which
are minor nuisances. Manage these by: 1) covering the pit with a
slab of concrete or plywood; this slab must fit tightly to the pit
walls so that there are no gaps or holes between the latrine cover
and the edges of the pit. 2) installing a capped and screened vent
pipe that rises at least 18 inches above the roof of the latrine. 3)
using a tight fitting seat cover inside the latrine. Paint the vent
pipe black and place on the sunny side of the latrine. This heats
the air inside the pipe, causing it to rise and draw air out of the
pit, minimizing odor.
If toilet paper is not available, many common papers can substitute,
such as newspaper or phone book paper. Some cultures use water for
HYGIENE, TRASH, HUMAN WASTE
This is the first line of defense against the spread of disease
and despair. If electricity is not available, household duties
require the assistance of everyone. Persons with special needs (such
as families with young children or elderly) may need the help of
neighbors. Attacking messes when they are “small” keeps them from
becoming big problems. If water is scarce, scrub pots and dishes
with brushes (or clean sand, or newspaper) to remove food particles
and grease, and then wash in hot soapy water.
Use ordinary unscented chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite, 5.2% in
water solution, such as Clorox) to make sanitizing and disinfecting
cleaning solutions. To make a sanitizing solution: for hard ,
non-porous surfaces, use 1 tablespoon liquid bleach in 1 gallon of
water, wet and then air dry, don’t rinse. For porous surfaces (like
a wood cutting board), use 3 tablespoons bleach per gallon, wet
liberally, rinse and wipe dry. To make a disinfecting solution: Use
¾ cup bleach in 1 gallon of water, small items can be soaked,
surfaces such as floors or counters should be wet liberally and kept
wet for 2 minutes. 1 tablespoon of powdered detergent may be added,
but do not add anything that contains ammonia, as it reacts badly
with chlorine. Rinse after disinfecting. For toilets, pour 1 cup
bleach into the bowl, brush, let stand for 10 minutes. Change the
solutions frequently when doing heavy cleaning.
Use rubber or plastic tubs or buckets and a household plunger to
wash clothes without electricity. Put water, detergent, and clothes
in the buckets. Cut a hole in the lid for the plunger handle (the
agitator). Soak the clothes. Insert the plunger handle through the
lid, put the lid on the bucket, and agitate by raising plunger up
and down. You can use the sink, but if water is scarce, don’t allow
the wash water to run down the drain (if the sewer is not working,
the drain may be clogged). Use a tub of clear water to rinse the
clothes. Some clothes may require hand scrubbing. Air dry by hanging
on clothes lines or hangers. In winter, you can air dry outside, but
you may have to crack ice to remove it from the clothes (wear gloves
when hanging clothes in winter). Hand wringing clothes is laborious
work, you’ll want extra hands to help; use the wringer of a
commercial mop bucket to remove excess water from your laundry.
When water is scarce, use a bucket or tote instead of the tub for
bathing. If you use a sink, don’t let the water escape down the
drain, you’ll need it for flushing the toilet. Put the tote in the
bathtub and stand inside it. Use a camp shower, sprinkler bucket, or
cups of water, or a wash cloth and a basin of water. Wash your hands
regularly, especially after using the toilet; many diseases are
passed hand to mouth. If water is scarce, pour a chlorine bleach
disinfecting solution over your hands (mix this in a jug, and have
it ready for use). Cornmeal or cornstarch can be used as dry
shampoos (sprinkle liberally in the hair, and then brush
vigorously). Use only boiled or otherwise purified water for
brushing your teeth or cleaning contact lenses. If you usually
shave, continue to do so unless a scarcity of water or lack of razor
blades make this impossible. On sunny days, you can
have hot water for washing by painting food grade plastic buckets,
with lids, black, filling them with water, and putting them is the
sun. This can also be a source of free heat; put several into the
sun and bring them into a room to help keep it warm. You can also
paint 2 liter pop bottles black to obtain smaller amounts of hot
Maintaining normal routines is important. Don’t skip your daily
bath! It boosts morale and prevents disease. Be proactive in your
community to ensure public health.
If normal services are interrupted, trash is a serious urban
health danger. If you don’t take care of it, the mice and flies
will, and you won’t like that. The primary rue is: Be careful what
you throw away and how you throw it away. “What ya do with what ya
got” is a traditional saying that bears remembering. People can
respond creatively to disruptions of normal supplies and services.
When you begin to think of your trash as less of a disposal problem
and more of a useful resource, you are getting to the point.
Start by throwing away less stuff. Bottles and cans have other uses
once they have been emptied; food and shredded paper can be
composted. If stores are closed, you’ll find uses for cans. Sort
what you throw away; a big problem with recycling is the practice of
mixing different kinds of trash. Don’t mix wet and dry trash, you
will create a stinky mess that will be attractive to flies and mice.
Keep toxic items such as spray paint cans separate. Don’t put
disposable diapers in with other trash. Separate it, bag it, and
cover it with a tarp so it can’t get wet.
Compost the wet trash. Mix shredded dry materials (such as
newspapers, leaves or sawdust), wet and green trash (lawn clippings,
kitchen/garden scraps) with dirt. No meats or fats should be added
to this mixture. Keep this compost heap covered with dry material,
and slightly damp. If it starts to stink, you probably need to add
more dry material or dirt. As the compost rots, it generates heat.
You can capture some of this heat as hot water by running a garden
hose through the compost heap.
Do not put disposable diapers into the compost heap or bury them in
the ground. If trash collection is disrupted switch to cloth
diapers. Disposable diapers can not be burned. If disposable diapers
are buried they will not decompose. If disposable diapers are all
you have place them in garbage bags and into a container that mice
and flies can not get into. Feminine pads should be buried or
If disruptions of trash collection are prolonged, you may be tempted
to organize the burning of trash, but this should be done in
conjunction with public authorities such as fire or police
departments. Be pro-active in organizing your neighborhood to take
care of trash. Don’t wait for the flies and mice to start working on
DISPOSAL OF HUMAN WASTES
The breakdown of a city’s sewage system is an immediate threat of
the spread of disease. Improper disposal of human wastes causes
epidemic diseases that kill people. Immediate
intervention is required. Do not use public spaces such as parks or
lawns for human waste disposal on the surface of the ground. Do not
bury human waste in snow. If the sewer
works, but the water does not, use water that has been used for
washing to flush the toilets.
Your health and wellness in disaster situations depends a lot on
your community’s ability to properly meet the challenges of public
health such as hygiene, trash, and sewage disposal.
SAFETY NOTES: Emergency cooking will involve an open flame. You
must have proper ventilation, a window or door open 1 inch will
provide sufficient fresh air if the open flame cooking device is
placed in front of (or close to) the opening. This keeps exhaust
fumes from spreading through the room. DO NOT leave a propane camp
stove, or the burners on a natural gas stove burning while you
sleep. DO NOT use charcoal briquettes inside for cooking—doing this
has killed people. DO NOT use wood inside a house for cooking unless
you have a fireplace or properly installed wood stove. If you need a
campfire, build it in a safe place outside. Symptoms of carbon
monoxide poisoning include headache, lethargy, blurry vision, room
feels “stuffy’, ringing in the ears. If symptoms occur, get fresh
air into the room immediately or move everybody out fast. Pregnant
women and unborn babies are particularly at risk. Seek medical
attention! A box of baking soda is a good emergency fire
extinguisher; sugar is not.
• Wood stoves, fireplaces, Dutch ovens, charcoal briquettes, gas
grills, camp stoves. Use bricks to make a stand for a pot or to hold
a grill in an open fireplace. Dutch ovens can be cooked in fires
outside in the yard or in the fireplace. Charcoal briquettes can be
used with cast iron skillets, Dutch ovens, and other pots and pans,
but such cooking must be done outside. Small 1 to 3 burner propane
camp stoves can be used indoors (with adequate ventilation), liquid
Coleman/white gas fuel stoves and gas grills must be used outdoors.
Most kerosene heaters get hot enough on top to cook food.
• Baking on top of a camp stove. (1) Place a cast iron skillet or
cookie sheet on top of the burner(s). (2) Put something on top of
this to raise the cooking pan up and allow air to circulate
underneath. This could be a low cake pan, or empty tuna cans, or the
trivet from your gas range. (3) Put the food to be baked in a
covered pan on top of the “risers”. (4) Make a tent from several
layers of foil over the cake pan, so that air can circulate beneath
it, and put a small vent hole in the top of the aluminum foil. Large
cans or pot lids also work. Keep an eye on the food as it is baking.
You may have to flip biscuits so that they brown on top.
• Chafing Dish cooking. Chafing dishes come in many different sizes
and use small cans of jelled fuel for heat, some use candles or
denatured alcohol burners. A fondue pot is a
type of chafing dish. The small stand supporting the chafing dish
can be used with a skillet or omelet pan, or a pot for soup or stew.
It takes up to a half hour to warm a can of food with a candle.
Buddy burners can also be used with chafing dishes. Buddy burners
and candles can be used with chafing dishes.
• Solar cookers. Solar cookers are made with cardboard boxes,
aluminum foil, duct tape, and glass. Such ovens can get to 350
degrees, hot enough to bake meats and casseroles. A solar cooker
works by reflecting light onto a dark pot through a clear
transparent cover such as glass or an oven baking bag, and
insulating the pot so that the heat does not radiate out but rather
cooks the food. Crockpot recipes will generally work in a solar
cooker. Work with materials you have at hand to create an insulated
container with a clear top the sun can be reflected upon.
• Non-electric crock pot. Use a box or bucket big enough to pack 4
inches of insulating material on all sides, top and bottom. Line the
inside with aluminum foil, and put insulating material on the bottom
(such as newspapers, cloth, sawdust, hay). Bring the food to a boil,
cover the pot (3-6 quarts) and put it in the container. Pack the top
and the spaces between the pot and the sides of the box or bucket
with insulating material, and put the lid on. Good for up to 4 hours
• Remember: Food cooks faster covered pots. Be thrifty with scarce
fuels, combine methods such as using a camp stove to bring beans to
a boil, and then the non-electric crock pot to finish the job.
FOOD SAFETY IN A DISASTER
Cold foods must be kept cold (below 45 degrees F.) to prevent
spoilage. If the power goes off, open your refrigerator and freezer
as little as possible. Wrap them in blankets or newspapers, or stack
bags of clothes or mattresses against the walls and on the tops.
Shield them from direct sunlight, and don’t heat the rooms they are
in. Eat the items in the refrigerator first, the same day the power
goes off. If you are frugal in opening the freezer the food inside
will stay below 45 degrees for 3-5 days. Be careful about storing
prepared foods without refrigeration. If it is cold winter, put food
in an insulated box (such as an ice chest) in an unheated room or
porch. Pack it with snow or ice. Put a thermometer in the room and
check it several times a day to make sure it is staying below 45
degrees. Protect the cold box from sunlight. When cooking, estimate
food portions carefully, as you may not be able to refrigerate the
leftovers. Spoiled foods may not have an offensive odor, so while
the presence of a bad odor is a sure indicator of spoilage, its
absence may not be an assurance of safety. Don’t take chances with
food safety! If in doubt, throw it out.
Creamed foods, soft cheeses (cream cheese, spreads, cottage cheese),
gravy, mayonnaise, salad dressings, pork, and poultry spoil quickly.
Dispose of them if the refrigerator has been without power for 12
hours. Seafood, chopped meat, and poultry sandwich fillings are not
safe after 4 hours without refrigeration. Hard cheeses will be fine
at room temperature for several days. To preserve for longer
periods: Dip the cheese into a salt solution (salty enough that an
egg floats) and place on a rack to dry overnight. On the 2nd day,
rub with salt and leave on the rack. Do this again a 3rd day. By
this time a rind should be developing. If it feels dry and smooth,
continue to the waxing; if not, rub with salt and let dry another
day. Waxing: Apply 3 or 4 coats of wax (either with a brush, or by
dipping into melted wax, melt the wax in a double boiler, which is a
pot of water with
a smaller pot inside), let the wax dry between each coat. Wrap with
cheese cloth, and continue the process of drip drying until several
layers later the cheese is completely covered with a smooth wax
exterior. It will continue to age inside, but remain good. If you do
find mold on hard cheese, simply scrape or cut of off and use the
rest of the cheese.
If the water system has been disrupted, assume the water is
impure unless announced otherwise. If you have a well and your
property has been flooded your well may be contaminated. Many
life-threatening diseases and parasites can be spread by impure
water. Do not take chances with water; always boil or otherwise
purify any water suspected of impurities. Here are some places to
look for water:
Your household plumbing. (1) close the main shutoff valve. If the
gas and electricity are still on ,turn off the hot water heater. (2)
open the faucets, one by one, collecting any water that comes out.
Do this until all the faucets in the house have been opened and
their water drained. (3) open the drain valve on your main water
line. If there is no valve, disconnect a water pipe at the lowest
point in your system, and drain the water. To tap the water heater,
close the cold water inlet pipe (on top of the heater). Open a hot
water tap and let the water run until it stops. Attach a hose to the
drain cock in the base of the heater, open the valve and drain into
a container. Waterbed water is not safe to drink due to the toxic
anti-algae treatments, but it is a great source for water for
During rain storms water can be collected off the roof of your
house. When it rains let the water run down your gutters for 10 or
15 minutes the begin collecting the runoff in clean buckets. If the
roof is in bad repair, cover it with tarps or plastic. Rainwater is
very pure, but if the roof or gutters are in bad condition or dirty,
purify the water before drinking.
Streams, rivers, lakes. All surface water must be purified before
drinking. Just because animals and birds may drink it doesn’t make
it safe for humans. Water-borne diseases and parasites age grave
threats from such water, even if it looks sparking clean and pure.
Fresh, clean, just-fallen snow can be melted and used without
further purification. Older snow must be purified. To collect water
from a river dig a hole at least 3 feet deep below the level of the
water, about 12 feet from the river’s edge. You may need to shore up
the sides of this hole to keep it from collapsing. Water will seep
into this hole from the river, and will be relatively clean water,
but it must be purified before using.
EMERGENCY PURIFICATION OF WATER
Water to be purified by these methods should be as clear as
possible. If the water is cloudy or dirty because of suspended
solids, let it sit in buckets for a day or so to allow the solid
materials to settle to the bottom. Siphon clear water from the
center and middle of the bucket, leaving the solids and the water
just above them in the bottom. Put this water through several layers
of coffee filters or clean cloth. Then treat it by one of these
methods. Make purified water taste better by adding a bit of lemon
juice or a powdered drink mix; also, pouring back and forth between
two clean container helps.
Boil for 10 minutes. “Boiled” means a rolling boil, not simmering.
At higher altitudes, increase the boiling time to 15 minutes. To
improve the taste, add a pinch of salt to each quart of boiled water
and pour it back and forth between two containers. To treat with
chlorine use plain old-fashioned chlorine bleach. The label says
“sodium hypochlorite at 5.25%”, Clorox bleach is the strength, don’t
use scented or colored bleach. Add 16 drops to each gallon of water.
Mix thoroughly and let it stand for 30 minutes. It should have a
slight chlorine odor. If it doesn’t, repeat the procedure. If you
are using water purification tablets; follow the directions of the
label. Bleach kills micro-organisms, if there are chemical
pollutants in the water, they will remain. To distill water, put 3
tuna cans on the bottom of a large pot and place a smaller pot on
top of the tuna cans. Put unpurified water in the larger pot (make
sure the smaller pot does not float off of the tuna cans). Turn the
lid upside down and place it on the large pot. Bring the pot to a
boil. The vapor will condense on the under side of the upside-down
lid and flow down the lid to drip into the smaller pot. To hasten
the process, you can put a bit of cool water in the lid, but make
sure the cool water can not drip through the lid into the water
SURVIVING THE STRESS OF A DISASTER
Normal life has a strong hold on us; it is what we are familiar
with and understand. But this “normality” can change suddenly,
radically, and painfully, bringing death, destruction, and
dislocation with little or no warning. Prolonged and extensive
disasters are a difficult challenge to the safety, security, health
and wellness of our families and community. We may expect help to
arrive almost immediately; this may not happen, circumstances can
prevent it from happening.
3 KINDS OF REACTIONS TO A DISASTER
(1) During and after a disaster, people may develop personality
changes relating to trauma-related stress. They may experience
anxiety attacks, have trouble sleeping and eating, feel on edge and
brittle, be easily disturbed or upset, become over-protective of
loved ones, experience emotional episodes (including crying), and
suffer despair and a sense of hopelessness. They may feel so
powerless to affect their situation that they are almost incapable
of helping themselves. They may become angry and resentful, unable
to make decisions, easily irritated, unable to focus on work,
lacking the energy even for basic daily activities. They may be sad,
depressed, and unwilling to confront the situation that brought
about the disaster.
(2) During and after a disaster, people may experience strong
feelings of solidarity and bonding with their neighbors and others
who have suffered the same situation. They may become very
cooperative, generous, compassionate, helpful, and warm-hearted.
People often demonstrate the ability to learn new skills very fast,
and exhibit a lot of ingenuity and creativity in working around
obstacles and managing chaotic situations. Humans are known for
sacrificing themselves to save others, sometimes for members of
their family, but also for complete strangers. We can work hard and
smart when the need is there. Instead of giving into despair, we can
become pro-active. People are very adaptable, even when changes are
coming very fast and the stress is very grave.
(3) During and after a disaster, some people take advantage of the
suffering, distress, weakness, or problems of others. They profiteer
on scarce goods, refuse to cooperate on necessary neighborhood
projects, hinder rescue and repair efforts, and/or turn violent and
criminal. Some disasters have been followed by violence and looting,
and theft generally increases. Goods donated by humanitarian
organizations may end up in the marketplaces at inflated prices.
People can be rude, arrogant, intensified by the stress of a major
SPECIAL NEEDS OF CHILDREN:
Children are greatly affected by disasters; they will need extra
realistic reassurances, but don’t promise what you can not deliver.
Expect them to be afraid—4 common fears are death, darkness,
animals, and abandonment. Refusing to discuss such fears with
children will only intensify their concerns; encourage them to talk
about their feelings or otherwise express them through activities
such as play acting or painting. Their feelings won’t go away if
adults refuse to talk about them, if repressed, eventually they will
come out, usually in a negative way. Pretending that problems don’t
exist only makes them worse. Physical reactions like nightmares,
vomiting, headaches, or emotional reactions like refusing to eat,
getting upset easily, feeling guilty or neglected, are very common
reactions to severe stress. Kids may regress to earlier behaviors
like bed wetting or wanting a special toy. When you talk with your
children, listen to how they say what they say. Watch them at play -
- with other children, and with their toys. Repeat information and
reassurances many times; answer their questions as much as you can.
Hold your child, provide comfort (touching is very important for
children during stress). Spend extra time with them before going to
bed. Don’t hesitate to seek help from friends, family, schools,
religious organizations, or support groups. Local Disaster Services
will also be obtaining stress counseling for disaster victims,
including children. Caution: the stress reactions of your kids will
be a source of stress for you. Don’t take your stress out on your
WHEN A DISASTER HAPPENS:
Take care of first things first. Immediate threats are the
obvious and threatening: fire, freezing cold, medical emergencies,
severe weather, industrial/chemical/pipeline explosions. Medically
fragile people, the elderly, and families with young children are
especially vulnerable in disasters. Check on your neighbors! It may
be necessary to set up heated shelters in homes or public buildings
during winter emergencies, or for people to stay with neighbors. Be
realistic in your expectations. Things won’t get back to normal
instantly. It will take time for the situation to recover and the
burden may be on each community to rescue itself. Encourage dialogue
about what has happened. People’s emotions may be roller-coastering;
it will help (a lot) to be able to talk about the event and how it
has impacted their lives, for better or for worse. Encourage
dialogue (organize opportunities for this to happen). But remember,
rumors abound in disaster situations and should be judged with
skepticism until proven true. Beware of spreading false information
that creates public anxiety.
It helps to be pro-active and hopeful. If there are things that need
to be done to help put things back to normal, then do them. Try not
to be swamped by details. Keep your eyes on the big picture and what
has to happen in order to ensure the health, safety, security, and
wellness of your family and neighborhood. Be open to creative
solutions to shortages, failed public services, or problems in the
marketplace. You will not be able to get through this safely and
securely all by yourself: you need your community, and your
community will need you.
Have a battery operated radio available to obtain up to date
information on the disaster and the location of emergency shelters
and drinking water.